South of the Northeast Kingdom by David Mamet
This short book by playwright David Mamet is a National Geographic publication about Vermont, where Mamet lived for forty years (I think). Jon and I have been fans of Mamet and of Vermont for several years now, so this was a treat.
Mamet's writing is almost like poetry, it's so concentrated. There are no meandering descriptions that invite you to get lost in the text. You have to pay attention to every word (or at least I did)--there's nothing extra. I liked it a lot.
In many travel books I've read, the author's descriptions of people and towns, especially small towns, are cute and quaint. They often end up sounding like caricatures instead of real people. (See Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon, for example; I couldn't finish it, he seemed so condescending to those he was describing. I started to imagine how he'd describe me, and it wasn't good.) Mamet's characters, real people he lived and did business with, were respectfully and realistically portrayed. Mamet also describes himself honestly, or with some self-deprecation or humility. I don't know what to call it, but it makes him a trustworthy writer. Someone to listen to.
I shouldn't be surprised, though. His plays and movies (the ones we've seen) are amazing and important. But that's a topic for another time. Or for several other times.